A story circle, created by Dan Harmon, is also known as a story embryo or a plot embryo. It contains eight steps that help you nail down your character’s journey.

It’s not overly complicated so let’s jump right in.

  1. You — Establish your character in their comfort zone.
  2. Need — Tell us what they want or need.
  3. Go — Something changes and they find themselves in an unfamiliar situation, either by proactive or inactive means.
  4. Search — The character begins to adapt to the new change.
  5. Find — They find the thing that they needed in point two.
  6. Take — They are negatively impacted by receiving what they wanted. Either something else is taken from them, or someone is lost. The cost must be heavy and character impacting.
  7. Return — The character returns to their comfort zone.
  8. Change — The character has changed along their journey. Explore the way they no longer act or fit in how way they used to.

The eight steps are simple, but that also means that they are flexible. They can fit into most genres and can be used in a standalone novel or in a series.

Something to keep in mind is that each of these steps fit into two larger sections, order and chaos. Steps one, two, seven and eight fit into order while steps three, four, five and six fit into the chaos bracket. Having the sections of the novels divided like this allows for moments of calm and moments of storm, letting you fully flesh out your character and how they react to every aspect of the world.

This story circle method is very simple and as such you might find yourself following this outline without consciously doing it. My story was written and halfway edited before finding out about this method, but it still perfectly fits within the embryo.

Looking at this kind of circle will help you pinpoint if anything is missing from your novel. Take the time to think of parts of your novel and how they might fit into the different steps. If you’re in the middle of plotting it might be worthwhile trying to write story beats to fit each of these steps.

As always, I cannot wait to see you on the bookshelf!